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Asparagus »« Artichoke: Jerusalem

Asian Greens Pak choi, Chinese cabbage

Brassica rapa


Photo courtesy of Horticulture New Zealand

Description

Asian greens have only become common in New Zealand relatively recently, but are now widely and easily available.

Similar to other leafy greens such as spinach, there are two main varieties. Bok choy, also known as pak choi, most closely resembles silverbeet or celery, with a creamy white stalk and bright green, rounded leaves. Chinese cabbage looks very like ordinary cabbage, apart from being more oval in shape. There are many other varieties, however.

Asian greens are high in vitamin C, beta-carotene, folate and calcium, as well as other essential minerals.

Choose Asian greens like you would other leafy vegetables: avoid any that look limp and wilted, or have slimy spots. Store in the fridge and use as soon as you can.

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History

As you’d expect, Asian greens probably originated in China, and have been grown there for more than 1000 years. Studied during the Ming Dynasty for its medicinal properties, it spread from the Yangtze Delta region of China throughout the country, and was introduced to other countries by Chinese travellers and settlers.

Uses

One of the best uses of Asian greens is in stir fries, where it adds colour and texture. If using bok choy, it’s best to separate the thick white stalks and cook those separately, adding the leaves just before serving. For a quick Asian-inspired side dish, stir fry bok choy with broccoli, beans and ginger, toss with cooked vermicelli, and stir in oyster or soy sauce and sesame oil.

Facts

Bok choy contains compounds called glucosinalates, which are normally harmless but can be toxic in very large quantities. In traditional Chinese medicine, potential toxic effects are mitigated by cooking bok choy with something hot, such as ginger or chilli.

In Cantonese, bok choy literally means ‘white vegetable’.



Asparagus »« Artichoke: Jerusalem

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